I’ve seen athletes push their bodies so hard during races that they vomit at (and sometimes before) the finish line. I’m pretty sure I’ve never even come close. Until today. Ok, drama aside I did not puke but I sure felt like I was going to.
So maybe I hopped back on the workout train a little too quickly. Weights yesterday morning, kickboxing last night and this morning I show up at 6am for spinning fully expecting to take it easy. That lasted just through the warm up when Danielle, the instructor, announced that our fast-paced workout would start with 16minutes out of the saddle. Um…..ok. I think I made it for about 2 of those 16 before plonking my butt back down on the seat for a tiny rest. Pretty sure I proceeded to do this about every 2-3 minutes for the duration of the 16. Then we cruised for a while then I SH*T you not she said “I think we’ll do another 16”. Dude. I repeated the same pattern of sitting/standing as I did for the first set and felt better when I looked around the room to find at least one of the other women who ran the marathon last weekend was doing a similar pattern. Toward the end of class I got freezing, shivering, teeth-chatteringly cold and seriously felt as though I was going to vomit. I put on my jacket, continued to drink lots of water, did a quick couple sets of abs and headed for the showers.
I know, I know. There’s a good reason why my body wasn’t ready to ‘kick it’ today. A reason I’m very proud of and this was pretty much the first time I’ve really had to back down in a class. I’m always up and at it even if it’s at a slower pace or a lighter intensity than the more fit folks around me. Today was a learning day, though. Learning that sometimes it is right to back off, but that it’s also still right to go, try, and get _some_ work done even if it’s not what I intended or what everyone else is doing. That latter bit is the crux of the matter. From my perspective it take a lot of self-confidence to be the one person in class sitting out an activity or visibly not performing the same as everyone else. Today I was forced to be that person. Forced to be the athlete for whom it was right to take it a bit easier and forced to practice what I’m sure will be a valuable lesson in the training & races to come: taking a rest when my body demands it but getting right back up and going at it again and again and again and again.
That said I think tomorrow's Diva Dash is going to be more of a Diva Crawl for me!
Mainly so I remember the day here's a detailed report on my first marathon.
2006 Seattle Marathon Race Report
Two days prior to race: home in bed with nasty cold
Day before race: home in bed with nasty cold. Manage to roust only long enough to get pre-race massage and drag butt to pick up packet & chip. Am exhausted by effort to walk from car to packet pick up and back.
8pm Evening before race: Realize while laying out clothing and gear that I’m missing the strap to my heart rate/pace monitor Garmin device. Seriously debate going without data. For about a second. Drive to ProClub in hope that I have left strap in locker.
8:30pm evening before race: JOY! Have found strap and can now head home for warm bed and cold meds. Sleeping somewhat by 10 and manage to sleep/toss and turn.
3:00am race day: wake up. Is it time yet?
3:15am race day: wake up. Is it time yet?
3:22am race day: wake up. Is it time yet?
Etc. approx every 7 minutes until 5:00am race day: Get out of bed and coffee and oatmeal up while calculating splits and studiously recording them on paper to give to Scott and to carry with me so everyone will know when to expect me at specific points throughout race. Run to bathroom with ‘dicky tum’ as the Brits would say.
5:00am race day: outside temp: 39 degrees. Run to bathroom
6:00am race day: outside temp 37 degrees. Run to bathroom
7:00am race day: 35 degrees. Run to bathroom
7:05am race day: Depart house totally forgetting carefully crafted split sheets. Temp 33 degrees and snowing. Top of hill – about 1 inch of snow on ground. Decide that the head cold, snow and upset stomach all add to the drama and excitement of the day making first marathon even more special and memorable than it would have been otherwise.
7:45am: arrive at Seattle Center. Hop out of car agreeing to see Scott either at halfway point or finish line. Head to start line, hit port-a-potty and try to stay dry. Raining and quite cold. Notice lots of folks just camping out in port-a-potty stalls as occupied signs are high and turnover rate quite low. Quite a good idea actually as it’s a place to sit down out of the rain and stay a little warm. I take my time adjusting clothing and gear for a bit them head out to huddle under eaves of EMP building until start time.
8:10: Line up at start line, pretty far in the back discard ‘disposable’ pants notice the many folks lining up in trash bags. Some continue to run in them and some continue to run entire race in them as I’ll notice later. Seems like it’d be hot & sticky to me but perhaps they’ve trained in a Georgia summer and that’s comfy for them. Also notice one of several barefoot runners. I’ve heard a lot about the benefits of this approach but given the conditions today it seems really super hard-core. I’m glad for my warmish squishy shoes.
8:15: Start! Ok, here I go. Nicely numb and very unusual for me not nervous at all – must be thanks to stuffy thick head. Begin running with only the thought of “let’s see how this goes”. Pack goes out fast. Me – not so much. I start slow and get passed a lot. Pretty sure I’m near the end but afraid to look back to see if I’m totally last. Figure it’s better not to know.
Mile 1-2: Run/shuffle slowly through downtown under monorail and (I think) right past Westlake Center. Past library, down hill and onto 1-90 express lane ramp.
Mile 3-4.5: Really strange but in a good way to be running up the ramp to get on 1-90 then through the tunnel to emerge onto floating bridge. Everyone shouting and whooping through the tunnel enjoying the lack of being rained on for a few moments.
Mile 4.5-6: Begin seeing the first of the fast runners on return leg of floating bridge. See speedy fellow runners from ProClub. Cool.
Mile 6: Find port-a-potty without line. Jump in. Sweet relief! Turn around and begin heading back across 1-90. Realize I’m not last when I spot adorable older gent running just ahead of the police cars bringing up the rear. Judging by his relaxed and very fit looking manner I guess that he just likes running there for all the cheers he gets from *everyone* ahead and behind. He’s getting hoots an d high fives from everyone and is totally drinking it all in. So cool.
Mile 6-7: First episode of This American Life in my playlist ends and music starts to kick in. Feeling great and like I could run all day. Am singing along to songs and nearly dancing while running. My songs are in alpha order by title and I was on “Back in Black” so I should have realized it was WAY too early to be that wound up.
Miles 8-12: Long run out to Seward park. Feeling all right but still taking it quite easy as I’m not sure how well my body is going to keep going. Tough to stay positive when I’m seeing hundreds of people pass me going the other direction meaning they’ve already done their loop around Seward, have passed the halfway point and are headed for the home stretch. Rainy, windy, pretty cold. Trying hard to remind myself that I’m lucky to be healthy enough overall to train for and attempt this race and to just live in the experience. Hear U2’s Beautiful Day and try hard to convince myself that it’s true. Come pretty close.
Miles 12-15: Ugh. Really tired. Started to feel like total crap right about mile 12. Loop around Seward was mega-long and very lonely. Very few spectators/cheering sections on the course (not that I blame them) in general. Some lift from knowing I’ve crossed the halfway mark. Eat some chewable Tylenol in celebration. Hips, quads hurting quite a bit and bone bruise on toe quite noticeable. On the up-side shoes are holding to my heels well. No rubbing so far and the blister band-aid holding fast. Have second skin and more band-aids on board in pockets just in case.
Mile 16: Oh! There’s Scott! Happy surprise. He’s walked about a mile and a half to find me. Quick check in and he tells me that friends Aimee & Michael are underneath an overpass at mile 24 to cheer me on. Something to look forward to and right now that’s a very good thing. Hard to continue running at this point. Far more tempting to follow Scott back to the car and head off for a hot bowl of soup or something. Decide that if there’s a time to try to pick up the pace and gain some ground this is it as afer mile 20 things turn uphill and my pace will go way down. I turn up the gas a little and try to keep it there for as long as I can.
Mile 17-20: This portion of the race is a blur. I know I stopped off at another port-a-potty. I remember I was trying to keep the faster pace when I passed a time clock that said 4:33. CRAP! I thought. I was thinking I could maybe beat 5 hours and that was fueling my faster pace. Once I saw this sign I felt my motivation to go fast fade in dejected defeat and my focus shifted to just finishing. I later realized that this time clock was for the ½ marathon runners so wasn’t my actual time. Double CRAP. Had I kept the picked up pace I may have been able to beat 5hours. Moving on. I’ve run this part of the course several times in training runs so I really am able to space out. I know I have a lot yet to go and that the uphill section is ahead at mile 20. Most of the runners who are back here with me are combo runners/walkers. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who’s this slow who is still running continuously. I feel good about that as running the entire race was an important goal to me. I realize there’s training protocols that reco a run/walk combo but that doesn’t give me the sense of achievement I’m looking for. So the run/walkers and I pass, then re-pass each other hundreds of times during this part of the course.
Mile 20-24: Course turns uphill at mile 20 heading up Madison, then a brief downhill before heading up through the Arboretum and Interlaken. The downhill portion on Madison had me pretty close to crying. I’ll run uphill all day if it means I don’t have to go downhill. Ouch! Rain started again pretty heavily somewhere in here. I’m passing many walkers and really slow runners heading up these hills. At some point I pass one of the hard core barefoot runners. Emerge from the park-ish running onto Roanoke to find some angelic souls handing out KRISPY KREME doughnuts. Thank you - you wonderful, wonderful people.
Mile 23.6: I turn the corner to head down to Eastlake and under the underpass see cheering people *bouncing* and pointing. The thought occurs to me that maybe I’m at mile 24 and that those are my friends. I keep pounding my way toward them and see that they’re holding up signs or something. Closer and I see that those ARE my friends and that they’re jumping up and down cheering and are holding giant signs that say “We heart Lukasik” and “You’re doing great Christine”. I can’t believe that these are for me and that these are my wonderful and amazing friends and colleagues. They’ve been out there in the rain and cold for hours waiting for me to pass. I run up to them crying like crazy and lay a huge wet and I’m sure quite stinky hug on Aimee. She and Max run with me a while and all I can do is cry with joy. I’m so happy and so touched that they’ve come out to support me.
Mile 24-26: When the girls peel off things get very quiet. For some reason I’m completely alone for pretty much the remainder of the race. I think the hills I just came up really slowed/stopped a lot of the runners. Either way it felt very strange to be running the race alone. Overall it didn’t feel like a very well supported race to me and it was most evident here. I was running up a street and it could have been me out for a Saturday run. No markers or competitors just me running up a wet city street sidewalk. These are by far the hardest miles of the race. I haven’t run this part of the course at all in practice so I don’t have a clear picture of distances or where the course is going making it seem reeeeaallllly long. There’s some downhill portions which hurt like hell then we turn up Dexter for a bit, then turn toward Seattle Center. I know I must be getting close when I realize I can see Mercer just ahead of me. Just all of the sudden I realize that I’m just about to enter Memorial Stadium which is the finish line so I realize I’m very close to being done.
Finish: There’s barriers to hold back the 10s of screaming fans from the finish chute and all the emotion hits me all at once. I spot Scott and my wonderful friend Shelley standing out in the cold rain waiting for me. When I see their cheering faces I start crying again –ugly sobbing cry and am holding my hand to my face to try to hold it together when Scott snapped the photo below. I cross the finish line, they greet me and I feel SO GREAT! They’re asking me how I’m feeling and I just feel FANTASTIC. Nothing hurts and I’m just thrilled and shocked to be done. In that moment the entire race seems as though it has happened in the span of a few moments and not the hours of pain that I just worked though.
Post Race: I change, get a quick onsite massage and we head for home. Stop for some Thai takeout, I come home to a looong hot shower and relax for the rest of the day. I still feel as thought I was in a time warp as it’s suddenly evening and I’m not sure how the entire day passed. I’m thrilled that I was able to do it and feel very peaceful.
It’s a few days later and the soreness is nearly all gone and overall I feel great. Looking forward to just being active in a bunch of different areas for a while. I’m going to add a second spinning class to my weekly schedule, likely a swim and finally be able to do a kickboxing class fresh without having run a 10 mile hill repeat that morning. Then in January Aimee and I begin the ProClub triathlon team so It’ll be fun to start to add on biking and swimming ahead of the run. Not sure if I’ll do another marathon but it’s certainly possible. Now that I know I can do it it’s getting a bit tempting to do one again in a year and see how much improvement I can achieve.
Either way, many many thanks to everyone who has supported me on this journey. I’ve been truly humbled by the amount of positive support I’ve received from friends, colleagues, family and fellow athletes. It’s been an incredible journey and I’m so thrilled that you’ve all been with me along the way.
Today I ran 26.2 miles and completed my first marathon.
Performance against goals:
1. Cross finish line: done
2. Run entire race: done
Finish time: 5:16. Not as super as I might have hoped but better than I expected going into it with a cold, an outside temp of 35ish degrees and snow/sleet/rain falling during much of the run.
Photo above snapped just as I was about to step across the finish line teary but happy by my super-spiffy supportive husband - thanks Scott! Also many thanks to Shelley, Aimee & Michael and Max for their on course support!
Well folks - here it is. Tomorrow is the Seattle Marathon.
I have a cold.
The weather forecast? Low of 32 degrees and possibly an inch of snow.
It's sure to be an endurance event. We'll see what happens.
First off, many congrats to Alix (Scott’s niece) on her 2nd place finish in the 100m breaststroke at the state championships! Way to go, Alix!!
Training continues to go well overall. I’m at the point where I’m beginning to get a bit panicky that I’ll trip over the dog, fall down the stairs, or simply fall over while standing (it’s totally happened before), break my ankle and mess up all this hard work. Hopefully that won’t happen but even if it does I’ve enjoyed the journey and certainly have benefitted from the training discipline!
Moved my long run to Sunday this weekend so I’m in the rhythm for race day and did 14.5mi as part of the ‘taper’ process. Despite starting my run in mighty cold wind and rain things went really well - running my fastest average pace yet by nearly a full minute and being several minutes faster than my usual long run pace. This run: 14.45mi in 2:35 = average of 10:47/mi. Major difference though is the course I ran this weekend is almost completely flat so I’m sure that helped out . On the flip side my nutrition for the two days prior completely sucked so I wasn’t fueled properly for the effort. Still there’s a glimmer of hope for a sub 5 hour marathon yet but only if all the stars align and I’m (for me) fast like the wind. My goals in order of priority remain 1. Crossing the finish line 2. Running the whole course without walk breaks THEN 3. Running it as quickly as possible while still accomplishing #1 and #2.
Did some serious speed intervals on the treadmill this morning running 75 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT) consisting of 15x with 4minute run/1minute jog intervals. I was at sub 9 minute miles for some of the latter sets so I was quite happy. This speed work really seems to be helping me get faster – I hope to keep it up even during the ‘off season’. The trick for me is to keep upping the speed on both the working time (4minutes) and the rest time (1 minute) by 1/10th with each interval. So if I start the first interval at level 6.0 for the work time and 4.0 for the rest when I start the second interval I up the work level to 6.1 and the rest to 4.1 and so on. As I get really tired I even break the work interval up into four 1 minute sections and do the first minute at only .1 up then .2 and so on – breaks things up into smaller chunks so I can tell myself “you can do anything for 60 seconds” and gets me greater gains than just .1 each interval.
Since I started tracking my runs in May of this year, I’ve logged nearly 750miles. Some of it has been long slow distance runs, some slow uphill and fast downhill in hill repeats and some has been either on a track or a treadmill running as fast as I can for a period of time then running more slowly for a quick recovery then repeating the pattern over and over again in an attempt to gain some speed.
During my 7.5mi hill repeat run this morning I had quite a bit of (cold and soggy) time to reflect on why I find the structure of the work of training so fulfilling. I learned more than just the _value_ of hard work from my parents – I learned _how_ to work hard – that often hard work means being up long before many others have gone to bed and that it’s incredibly addictive. Both of my parents absolutely are (were in the case of my father) not only incredibly intelligent but also massively hard workers. My mom went to undergrad full time taking overloads every quarter and graduating a full year early while raising me (which was no easy task), keeping our household running and commuting an hour each way to college. She graduated with some crazy awesome like 4.569 GPA and I cannot even count the number of mornings a week (though it was close to 7) that she rose at ungodly hours of the morning (think 3am) to study or get her other work done. She went on to do her grad work while working full time and my father went to (I think) both undergrad and grad school while working full time as well. Both of them spent every weekend working outdoors to keep our property, garden, nursery, driveway and house (that they designed and built by hand) all in better shape than any national park that I’ve visited. Clearly they set a fantastic example of what can be accomplished through pure dedication and incredible effort.
I guess I picked up a lot of that by example – though I can’t claim that I deliver anything close to the output of those two people. Funny thing is, I guess I figured out at some point that I could make up for lack of a lot of areas (raw intelligence, athletic ability, etc.) by expending great amounts of effort toward incremental improvements. I finally hit a stride in applying this in the latter two years of college. My first two years were what you could nicely call “under-performing”. For some reason my Jr. year everything just clicked and I nailed the remainder of college. My secret? Endlessly copying my class notes over and over and over again. I realized that I can read any number of pages and not really absorb anything on them but if I wrote notes on the material it forced my brain to process it on some level and then by repeating it by copying it I was able to learn it or commit it to memory – sometimes based on how or where I wrote it. Once this approach brought me success I repeated it and that became my incredibly labor intensive but highly effective route to collegiate success.
I’m pretty sure the same thing applies to training. I’m not a naturally gifted athlete. I’m not fast, I’m not lean and running is never, ever easy for me. Hell, I’m barely on the ‘not’ side of being _very_ overweight. I am getting better, though, and it’s absolutely because I log the time and I perform the repetitive tasks that drive that improvement. And it’s way better and a hell of a lot more fulfilling to wake up at ass o’clock and know that I’m going to go tackle a hill repeat and that damn it I’m going to do it 5 times today because last time I could only get through 4 than to wake up and think “I have to go do 45 minutes on the dual ellipse machine because I’m fat”. It’s meant that I’m starting to view my body as being capable of great strength and endurance rather than something that should be hidden by baggy clothing.
Don’t get me wrong - I NEVER want to get out of bed and I never think “Oh goodie! I’m going to go run up and down hills for a few hours”. I do make a deal with myself each morning that first I will get out of bed. Then I will just drive to the gym (I leave my makeup there all week so that I’m pretty much forced to go) and I always tell myself that I will just get started easy and see how I feel – that if I continue to feel really terrible that I‘ll take it easy or just do a little and then hit the shower. I pretty much never stop, and I never EVER regret the workout when it’s done. That’s what keeps me going. I’m completely addicted to the feeling of smug self-satisfaction I get after I’m done. Especially so on those days when I feel like hell or really didn’t want to do anything. Oh, and extra double that when it’s raining. Which it really doesn’t ever do here very much at all.
This weekend I completed my 2nd 20 mile training run and finished it a full 30 minutes faster than last weekend - whoopee! Good lord, I hope I haven't peaked too early. It was a fantastic run for me despite the semi-discomfort of spending all four hours of it in the rain. I felt really good for the most of the way, ran most of the hills at the end of the Seattle marathon course and have now run about 85% of the total course. The kind folks at the ProClub who support the runs seem to think I'm ready. I felt ready until visiting the physical therapist today.
Turns out the nagging pain in one of the toe joints on my right foot for the last couple of weeks is a bone bruise. ERHG! Luckily he said I should be able to run and that I won't do any lasting damage by running on it so I'm taking that as an 'all clear'. We may have found a cause...a little nub on the bottom of my shoe which I'll surgically remove with an Exacto knife. Bizarre but it happens to fall at exactly the joint where the bruise is and the sole material that the nub (a little design/logo bit in the sole pattern) is made of is a harder material than the rest of the sole.
So I'll shift my training schedule to add an additional day of rest between long and longish runs, do some shoe surgery and hopefully things will get better. Apparently it can take up to 6 months to heal fully so I guess I'll have an excuse to wear the same comfy shoes to work every day for a while!